Grief at the Loss of Absolutes

David Hayward shared the above cartoon. The title uses “deconstruction” in its popular rather than its technical sense. It is really about the application of Kübler-Ross' famous “five stages of grief” to the grief we experience when we realize that our conviction that we have the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth is in fact untrue.
These reflections are appropriate for the day when Americans celebrate Thanksgiving. It is possible to move from trying to deny our own humanity and trying to be like God, knowing all things, to accepting our human limitations and giving thanks for them. It is ironic that those who insist on the literal and absolute truth of the Genesis story miss that this is one possible interpretation thereof – a warning against the dangers of fundamentalism. The tree that offered knowledge “good and evil” may have represented knowledge of everything (the mention of two opposites such as “good and evil” sometimes indicates comprehensiveness). Humans grasped at it, but what we ended up with was simply a recognition of our own humanity, our nakedness.
That is one possible interpretation of the story. It isn't the only one, and there is no single interpretation that is clearly the best, much less the only one. Those who assert otherwise are still in the denial stage. Hopefully they will have the courage to move through the other stages, as difficult as they are. The other end of the process is a much happier and healthier place to be, a place where true gratitude not only in spite of but for one's limited human perspective on things becomes possible.

 


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